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Sports and legal weed

Canada's elite athletes are smoking, eating and investing in marijuana. Is a toke before stepping to the start line far off?

The Canadian government intends to legalize recreational cannabis by July 1, 2018. It's already legal for personal, recreational use in a handful of U.S. states.

Cannabis, hashish, marijuana, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are on the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited list, but only during competition.

When labs receive urine samples taken out of competition, they don't test for those substances, according to the Canadian Centre For Ethics in Sport.

WADA also relaxed the in-competition threshold in 2013 to allow for 150 nanograms per millilitre of urine instead of 15. That tenfold change is significant given Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was nearly stripped of his Olympic gold medal in 1998 at 17.8 ng/ml.

An informal survey of Canadian athletes planning to compete in February's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, produced a variety of opinions, ranging from keeping marijuana on the prohibited list to removing it when it becomes legal at home.

"I think it's pretty proven that it's not unsafe for you and it's definitely not performance-enhancing, at least in what I do," alpine skier Dustin Cook said. "So yeah, I think it should be taken off the banned list when it becomes legal."

Snowboarder Spencer O'Brien agreed.

"I personally do not smoke weed, but I feel like it's not a performance enhancing drug," she said. "I don't see any aspect of that that would give somebody a competitive edge."

Bobsled pilot Kaillie Humphries says she's never tried weed or hash "and I think I'm the only athlete in the entire world," but knows of teammates who smoke it and eat it in food as a sleep aid while training.

"A lot of athletes use it for recovery. It's not something performance-enhancing."

But both she and luger Sam Edney agree sliding down a track at more than one hundred kilometres per hour under the influence of a substance that alters perception and behaviour is dangerous.

"For me, I feel it's a safety thing," Edney said. "In a racing sport, under the influence is still under the influence."

​Skeleton racer Dave Greszczyszyn says he sees the coming legalization of marijuana as a means to pay for his sport.

"I actually invested in a bit trying to make some money," Greszczyszyn said. "Half of our team has invested in the stocks trying to make some money to help fund ourselves in our program."

Figure skater Gabrielle Daleman comes down firmly on the side of criteria No. 3. She's adamant marijuana should not be removed from WADA's prohibited list.

"I think it should stay on. I believe in clean sport," she said. "I'm actually surprised that's going to be legal because all drugs are bad. I do not recommend them at all.

"We should still continue to push for clean sport, fair, and doing everything the way it's supposed to be."

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